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Dead Man’s Family Sues Chicago PD for Answers

CHICAGO (CN) - A Chicago man's family does not believe he died the way police say he did, and his sister has sued the city to obtain evidence she thinks will prove it.

Heriberto Godinez Jr., 24, died in police custody in July 2015 while officers were arresting him for attempting to break into a building, according to reports from ABC 7 News.

"Police said he was sweating and breathing heavily when they arrived," the station reported, and Godinez died at the scene after officers called paramedics for help.

"I wanna understand why it is that I am a citizen of this city and this city is of no help to me and my family when we need them the most," Godinez's sister Crystal told ABC after the family got no answers about how he died.

This past September, the Cook County medical examiner determined that Godinez died from "combined cocaine and alcohol toxicity."

The examiner's report says "the use of these substances predisposed Mr. Godinez to a lethal dysrhythmia. There is also evidence that Mr. Godinez was intensely exerting himself while apprehended."

The manner of death - accident, homicide, suicide - was never determined.

Jeffrey Granich, one of the attorneys for Godinez's sister Janet, said the examiner's report is "all over the place" and doesn't tell the whole story. He added that the examiner was only given a portion of the police surveillance video showing the incident.

Granich said witnesses saw officers chasing Godinez and saw them on top of him. The officers said they found him inside a garage.

Godinez had "a staggering amount of bruises all over his body," Granich said, and he had eye hemorrhages that are usually caused by neck trauma. The family believes an officer injured his neck, which caused his death.

Janet Godinez requested "documents and audio and video recordings relating to the Chicago police in-custody death of Heriberto Godinez," from the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications and the city's police department under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, she says in her complaint.

Both departments denied her requests, citing that the information was being used in investigations by the CPD and the Independent Police Review Authority.

Janet Godinez's Dec. 31 lawsuit points to Judge Franklin Valderrama's recent decision that the city must release the dashcam video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, stating that the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and CPD "cannot claim an exemption under FOIA based on another public body's investigation."

The sister is asking for an order that the records she requested be released. Granich said they are "trying to be patient" and are waiting to file a civil suit against the city until they have the video and other documents showing what happened to her brother.

Chicago's legal department did not return a voicemail request for comment from Courthouse News.

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